SOU pivots toward remote classes

SOU remains flexible in pandemic, pivots toward remote courses

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University is making use of the flexibility built into its reopening plan, pivoting to a fall academic schedule in which most – but not all – classes will be delivered remotely. The shift is due to the continued spread of COVID-19 in southern Oregon and statewide, and will benefit from the university’s growing familiarity with online and remote classes.

“I shared some months ago that our reopening strategy would be flexible and allow for these kinds of adjustments,” SOU President Linda Schott said in a message to students. “I remain committed to delivering a customized and flexible ‘hybrid’ learning experience this fall, balancing academic excellence with our community’s health and safety.”

The president pointed out that COVID-19 continues to spread in southern Oregon and much of the state, and that SOU recently learned of some initial cases involving members of its campus community.

The university has updated its safety and health protocols – including strict capacity standards for indoor spaces and a requirement for face coverings both inside and outside where adequate social distancing is not possible – to exceed CDC guidance. SOU is working with Oregon’s other public universities, community partners and Jackson County Public Health to plan for and respond to positive COVID-19 cases when they occur.

“I want our students to continue their studies in safety,” President Schott said. “I want SOU employees to continue serving our students without putting their health in jeopardy. And I want our neighbors and community members to recognize that we are moving ahead with appropriate caution.”

The university’s planning teams have worked to develop educational and student experiences that ensure both academic progression and improved quality of remote delivery courses. Many faculty members are taking advantage of professional development opportunities this summer to enhance learning environments for students in the coming academic year. SOU’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning has helped upgrade the university’s online and remote offerings.

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About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University is a medium-sized campus that provides comprehensive educational opportunities with a strong focus on student success and intellectual creativity. Located in vibrant Ashland, Oregon, SOU remains committed to diversity and inclusion for all students on its environmentally sustainable campus. Connected learning programs taught by a host of exceptional faculty provide quality, innovative experiences for students. Visit sou.edu.

Cascade Conference delays fall sports

Cascade Conference delays fall sports for SOU and other member schools

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Council of Presidents of the Cascade Collegiate Conference voted today to delay the start of its fall sports seasons until the winter and spring of 2021. Southern Oregon University competes in the Cascade Conference fall sports of women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s cross-country, and men’s and women’s soccer.

SOU’s football team competes in the Frontier Conference, which shortened its schedule to eight games last month and is likely to further modify the season based on today’s action from the Cascade Conference.

“Our focus is on the safety of all students on our campus,” said SOU President Linda Schott, who participated in today’s vote by the Council of Presidents. “We also feel that this move provides the best opportunity for our fall sports student-athletes to participate in a full season of competition during the coming academic year.”

The Cascade Conference suspended all outside competition until at least Nov. 1, but member schools can authorize practices, weight training, conditioning and other team activities that are consistent with guidance from local and state health authorities.

The conference has member schools for fall sports in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and British Columbia, Canada. Its geographic reach presents challenges based on the reopening status of each state or province, and the U.S./Canadian border remains closed to nonessential travel.

The Cascade Conference has encouraged the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) to follow suit on the delay of fall sports, with national tournaments rescheduled for next spring.

Presidents of the Cascade Conference schools have made no decisions about the winter sports of men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s and women’s wrestling, but the schedules of those sports could also be adjusted depending on trends with the pandemic.

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About Southern Oregon University
Southern Oregon University is a medium-sized campus that provides comprehensive educational opportunities with a strong focus on student success and intellectual creativity. Located in vibrant Ashland, Oregon, SOU remains committed to diversity and inclusion for all students on its environmentally sustainable campus. Connected learning programs taught by a host of exceptional faculty provide quality, innovative experiences for students. Visit sou.edu.

Raider Receptions and Registrations are online this year

With campus access limited, Raider Receptions and Registrations go online

Southern Oregon University typically introduces newly admitted students to life at SOU via Raider Receptions, touring them around campus in tight-knit groups. Then come the Raider Registrations, where students-to-be meet with academic advisors, schedule classes and get set for enrollment.

COVID-19 precautions prevent incoming students from seeing all that the SOU campus offers, so this year’s incoming class of first-year and transfer students are being informed of SOU’s attributes and amenities by way of digital Raider Receptions and remote Raider Registrations.

Raider Reception is meant to be a celebration of your admission to the university, as well as to provide information about the enrollment process,” Ian Parent, associate director of admissions at SOU, says in a video element of the digital reception.

“Throughout Raider Reception, we will address the next steps for enrollment,” he says. “In doing so, you will hear from current students, campus professionals and alumni on topics such as the enrollment deposit, Raider Registration, financial aid, housing, student life and much more.” 

Living arrangements – including the housing contract for future students who will be staying in SOU’s residence halls – and Raider Registration events are among the key next steps following the Raider Receptions for those who have applied or been admitted to the university.

“One of the more exciting steps in the enrollment process is Raider Registration,” Parent says in the video. “There are multiple Raider Registration events throughout the summer. Some are for first-year students and some are for transfer students. Ultimately, it is at Raider Registration where you will meet with a Student Success Coordinator or faculty member and register for your fall classes.”

This summer’s Raider Registration events are live, remote group meetings on set dates, and only a few remain for fall term: on Saturday, July 18 and Friday, Aug. 7 for first-year students; and on Friday, July 10 and Saturday, Aug. 8, for transfer students.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many of the topics covered in the Raider Reception events. Most student life activities – including operations at the Student Recreation Center and events through the Outdoor Program – have been canceled through the summer. And SOU Dining is limited for now to take-out options through The Landing convenience store that is part of The Hawk dining commons.

SOU is planning for a mix of in-person and remote academic and other offerings for fall term, but flexibility is a key as the pandemic remains unpredictable and student wellness is the university’s top priority.

 

The goal of the university has been to make the preliminary steps to becoming a student as easy as possible, given the obstacles created by the pandemic. For instance, only incoming students who have paid their $300 enrollment deposits are typically eligible for Raider Registration events and to prepare housing contracts. But the university has deferred payment of the enrollment deposit to a later date as part of its COVID-19 response, allowing new students to make headway toward enrollment before making a financial commitment.

The digital Raider Reception includes a video walkthrough by director of financial aid Kristen Gast, who details some of the other ways SOU is helping its students pay for college.

“Me and my staff are so thrilled to welcome you to be a part of the Raider family,” Gast says. “My office is dedicated to making sure that you have all of the resources available to you to be able to afford to complete your degree here at SOU.”

The online reception ends with links to a number of supplemental videos that address the concerns of and opportunities for new students. Topics include Raider athletics, transferring to SOU, Honors College at SOU, student and alumni testimonials, the Veterans Resource Center, disability resources, the Western Undergraduate Exchange tuition program, Army ROTC, the Degree in Three program, the Study Away and exchange program, the Bridge Program that helps underrepresented students transition to college and North State Promise tuition advantage for northern California students.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

SOU's Small Business Development Center

SOU Small Business Development Center helps local businesses weather COVID-19

Southern Oregon University’s Small Business Development Center, in Medford at the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center, has done more than its part to make sure businesses in Jackson County survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency in Oregon to address the virus outbreak on March 8, and President Trump declared a national emergency five days later.

“We noticed a marked increase in the number of calls into our SBDC Center immediately upon the president’s declaration of the national emergency,” said Marshall Doak, the center’s director. “Initially, our volume doubled, then continued to rise until we were dealing with a ten-times increase in our workload, trying to respond to the panic we heard in the regional business people’s voices.”

The flurry of calls from local business owners typically focused on accessing Small Business Administration programs or unemployment services, how to deal with landlords who wouldn’t offer rent leniency and the closure of businesses. Confidential, one-on-one business advising is a core feature of the national SBDC model.

One of the local businesses that reached out to SOU’s SBDC for help is the Talent Café, which focuses on a diverse selection of breakfast and lunch comfort food. The walls of Talent Café showcase owner Denise O’Brien’s paintings, which she creates while working there.

“I moved to Talent from Kona, Hawaii,” O’Brien said. “I had owned salons for 30 years but got really tired of the dynamic. I saw the cafe for sale in Talent, got a job as a hostess on the weekends and then bought it.”

Then the pandemic hit Oregon. Gatherings of 25 people or more were banned, along with on-premises food consumption at restaurants, bars and coffee shops.

O’Brien’s dedication to her customers, some assistance from the SBDC and some changes in direction have enabled the Talent Café to stay afloat.

“(COVID-19) closed us down for three months, right as it was getting busy,” O’Brien said. “I have completely redone the café to be more geared to to-go food.”

Her cafe isn’t the only local business to benefit from the SBDC’s assistance. Even with the increase in calls, the center has maintained its caller satisfaction rate, according to surveys of clients. 

“Our SBDC has distinguished itself in the amount of client contact we have had,” Doak said. 

The SBDC itself was also affected by the coronavirus, beyond the increase in calls. Doak and others take pride in the SBDC’s one-on-one meetings with business owners, and in-person training such as the “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” and “Grow your Business/Grow your Online Presence” classes taught at the HEC. A Zoom webinar to help business owners “Develop Your Unique Post-COVID Strategy” will be held at noon on July 23.

But with the cancellation of all non-essential meetings, the SBDC had to adapt its offerings to remote delivery.

“We went to a virtual delivery method before our peers around the nation were able to,” Doak said. “The SOU IT Department was absolutely fantastic in getting us up and running, so we (didn’t) skip a beat.”

The Medford SBDC has also been able to leverage its connection to the Small Business Administration – the only cabinet-level federal agency fully dedicated to small businesses – to help its local clients. About 900 SBDCs operate across the country, usually located at colleges or universities and funded by a combination of state and SBA support.

“We have extensive resources for SBA lending programs, for updated information for the CARES Act, and the accumulated knowledge of over 120 highly-educated and experienced professional business advisers across the state at our fingertips to assist our client businesses,” Doak said.

The SBDC’s business expertise and familiarity with the CARES Act were critical resources for O’Brien and as her Talent Café struggled to survive the COVID-19 restrictions.

“I have greatly valued the advice of Marshall, my (SBDC) counselor,” O’Brien said. “He guided me through loan applications and let me rant.”

Doak and the Medford SBDC are committed to the one-on-one approach that sets the business assistance agency apart from other organizations of its type.

“In the immediate past and present, the most important work we do is to keep entrepreneurs and business owners solvent so that they are able to rebuild their businesses post-COVID,” Doak said. “Knowing how fast businesses can go from prosperity to poverty or bankruptcy has been a shocking revelation to us.”

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

SOU board condemns racial injustice

SOU board condemns racial injustice, pledges action

(Ashland, Ore.) — The Southern Oregon University Board of Trustees voted unanimously today – on Juneteenth, a significant date in the history of Black and African Americans – to condemn racial injustice and pledge to take action as the nation searches for solutions.

“We must seize these opportunities, and while acknowledging the challenges, we must assure our students and colleagues that we see them, hear them and stand with them against racial oppression and injustice,” the SOU board said in a statement.

“We cannot be silent. It is not enough to feel bad, or hope someone else will do something. We must be part of the solution. We must act.”

The board’s action came on the same day that the university hung Black Lives Matter posters in prominent campus locations and President Linda Schott announced the creation of an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Team to temporarily direct SOU’s social justice efforts. The team – made up of campus leaders Sabrina Prud’homme, Jonathan Chavez Baez and Kylan Mattias de Vries – will manage those duties until the university hires a successor to former senior executive for Suresh Appavoo, who resigned last month.

“We have agreed that it is most vital to concentrate on the work that must be done on our campus rather than conduct a national search for an equity, diversity and inclusion executive at this time,” President Schott said Friday in a message to campus.

The EDI Team will lead SOU’s efforts to meet state cultural competency requirements by December; provide professional development opportunities including culturally responsive teaching and implicit bias training; and create a campus Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Plan to guide policy changes and strengthen institutional accountability.

“I have full faith in the ability of our campus to come together and create the constructive change we seek,” President Schott said. “SOU is a special place, and I am committed to ensuring that all in our community feel safe here. I welcome your good ideas and good hearts to our work.”

She praised the board for its message in support of students, faculty and staff of color, and its shared dedication to SOU’s welcoming atmosphere.

“The board has committed – as I have – to lead SOU through whatever process is necessary to ensure that our campus embraces people from all walks of life and from all nations of the world,” the president said.

The Board of Trustees’ statement:

“On this Juneteenth of 2020, we act in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and with people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds who continue to face unprecedented challenges, injustices, and violence.

“The SOU Board joins President Linda Schott in her clear statement that Southern Oregon University condemns and denounces hate and abhorrent language and behaviors intended to harm any member of our learning community on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, expression, age, national origin (ancestry), immigration status, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or military status. We are firmly committed to peace, justice, civil discourse, social-emotional support and respect for all.

“We must seize these opportunities, and while acknowledging the challenges, we must assure our students and colleagues that we see them, hear them and stand with them against racial oppression and injustice. We cannot be silent. It is not enough to feel bad, or hope someone else will do something. We must be part of the solution. We must act.

“Identifying actions that we can take will be part of our challenge and our opportunity. We recognize that thinking of actions is easier than taking them, but taking action is a moral imperative. As a board, we commit to not only condemning injustice but also taking action and rising to the challenge of being part of a solution.”

Wetlands are being restored at The Farm at SOU

SOU shows commitment to sustainability, restoring wetlands at The Farm

Southern Oregon University is demonstrating its commitment to sustainability and helping to preserve a portion of Oregon’s remaining wetlands with its ongoing effort to restore a “wet meadow” at The Farm at SOU.

“We have already noticed impacts from our work,” said associate professor Vincent Smith, director of The Farm. “The area is alive with the sounds of frogs and I personally watched a blue heron land in the site yesterday for a bit of rest.”

The wet meadow was previously overgrown with blackberries and other invasive species, but Smith and his team of 13 student workers have triggered a turnaround at the site. Much of the unwanted brush has been cleared and replaced with wetland plants that are native to the area, and a new boardwalk now extends into the meadow from the adjacent Thalden Pavilion.

“Much of the wetland walkway is now completed,” Smith said. “Students have planted over 100 new wetland plants and work weekly to reduce pressure from invasive species.

“One of the biggest challenges we have faced is the removal of invasive species, namely blackberry, without the use of chemicals.”

Funding for the restoration project has been provided by local philanthropists Barry and Kathryn Thalden of Ashland, whose earlier donation paid for construction of the pavilion that bears their name.

The wet meadow – part of a 5 ½-acre parcel that encompasses The Farm and the SOU Center for Sustainability – will become a hub for research and education when its restoration is complete. Students and community members will have opportunities to observe and research the beneficial ecosystem of a functioning wetland.

Wetlands – areas of land covered by fresh or salt water – used to cover 2.3 million acres of Oregon, and are home to numerous species of mammals, birds, fish and invertebrates. More than a million acres of the state’s wetlands have been lost to agricultural and urban development, leading to issues of water filtration, storm protection and flood control.

About 40 percent of Oregon’s wetlands have been drained, and 22 states have lost at least half of their wetlands.

The Farm’s restoration project has a long way to go – physical removal of invasive species will continue for several years.

“We will not see the full environmental impacts until later this year and next year,” Smith said. “Our construction will limit wildlife returning for now. I expect by late summer, we will begin to see extensive growth of native plants and hopefully begin to see additional wildlife on the site.”

Managing and maintaining the project has been a collective effort. The Farm has hosted seven work days, during which volunteers from SOU have contributed hundreds of hours to site preparation, planting and weeding. Two student interns in particular – Erin Wheeler, an Environmental Science and Policy major at SOU, and Katy Tarr, an intern from Chico State University – have made an impact as leaders of the restoration effort.

“Perhaps one of my favorite experiences during the restoration project so far was watching the two interns leading the project take pictures after planting was completed,” Smith said. “Watching students figure something out in the classroom is a beautiful thing … but watching students accomplish something outside of the classroom is why I come to work every day.”

The Farm, on Walker Street in Ashland, serves as a venue for organic agriculture and a source of healthy, sustainable food for the SOU community.

Story by Kennedy Cartwright, SOU Marketing and Communications assistant and student writer

Commencement week, virtually, at SOU

SOU offers various Commencement recognitions in lieu of ceremony

(Ashland, Ore.) — Raider Stadium will be strangely empty Saturday, when Southern Oregon University’s traditional Commencement Ceremony was planned until the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily ended all mass gatherings in Oregon. But SOU remains in celebration mode this week with a variety of displays and program-level virtual, video and drive-through acknowledgements.

And all 1,000-plus Class of 2020 graduates will be recognized with small, individualized signs placed in the campus lawn – after President Linda Schott and the Rocky Raider mascot congratulate each graduate by posing for a photo with their sign. The lawn sign photos will be posted on the university’s website Saturday as a slideshow tribute to the graduating class.

“College graduation is a remarkable milestone for any student,” President Schott said. “I commend this year’s graduates for their hard work and determination, and for the grace with which they have negotiated the challenges of these past few months. They have prepared themselves well for future success.”

Visible displays to honor this year’s graduates will begin showing up on campus later this week, including a large Class of 2020 banner, signs at various campus locations and a commemorative display on the Churchill arch – traditionally a favorite spot along Siskiyou Boulevard for graduation photos.

At least 31 SOU programs are offering graduation observances specific to their graduates. Most of the program-specific events – which began last week and continue through this weekend – are virtual graduation celebrations. At least two programs are holding in-person but socially distant ceremonies, three created drive-through graduation events, four prepared video celebrations for their graduates and one – the Digital Cinema Program – streamed a live “Student Film Festival and Senior Celebration.”

SOU’s 2020 graduates have been told they should also expect to be invited back to campus for a full Commencement Ceremony at Raider Stadium as soon as an event of that size is allowed and the safety of participants and spectators can be assured.

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Centralized trash cans and recycling bins will be the focus at SOU

Initiative to reduce trash cans – and trash – continues despite COVID-19

COVID-19 has reached so deeply into everyday life that it’s affected even seemingly unrelated procedures and initiatives – such as a project to reduce waste at SOU by eliminating individual trash cans.

The program – launched in January by sustainability and recycling manager Rebecca Walker – is continuing, but at a different trajectory and pace.

Walker, who became SOU’s sustainability and recycling manager in November, launched the initiative to remove individual trash cans from rooms across campus, starting with the Facilities, Management and Planning building.

“This is a small change, but to me a critical one,” Walker said. “Studies have shown that removing individual trash cans has a number of benefits, including the reduction in the use of plastic liners, helping staff and students to think about how they handle their trash, increasing recycling rates … and reducing overall trash.”

It will also save money by reducing the amount of time the custodial staff needs to take out the trash.

The Science Building, Taylor Hall, and Churchill Hall had their trash and recycling measured in early January, before the initiative started. The intent was to allow Walker and the rest of the Facilities, Management and Planning team to check the initiative’s outcome by comparing measurements later. Unfortunately, COVID-19 threw a wrench into that plan – the reduced presence of students and employees on campus would skew trash comparisons,.

“We haven’t done any trash measurements since January,” Walker said. “And with less people on campus and a campus operating differently, we are going to roll out this program of work over a longer period of time.” 

It’s only small, individual cans found in classrooms, offices and other locations that will be removed. The centralized waste stations (the ones containing three bins for trash, paper, and glass) will still be in every building, a short walk from most locations. And Walker is prepared to make exceptions in some situations.

“Not all individual trash cans had been removed,” she said. “In some cases, it makes sense to keep a smaller trash can between a few people or an individual trash can. We need to put in place systems that work for everyone, and in some cases there may be a reason why someone has to keep an individual trash can.”

The initiative has temporarily slowed, but it isn’t going away. 

“We do intend to continue to roll out (the trash can) project – including centralized locations, signage and education and awareness for recycling – over the summer,” Walker said. “Recycling is an important foundation for any campus to have in place to achieve its sustainability goals.”

In the meantime, she has refocused her team on projects that can be completed predominantly online – such as a new, more ambitious SOU Climate and Sustainability Plan.

“I have been working with the Sustainability Council and students to initiate (the development of a Climate and Sustainability Plan),” she said. “We have exciting plans of getting as many involved as we can through Zoom workshops and social media to maximize participation and involvement in the current, more online community.”

Those who want to be involved or have ideas for sustainability and climate action at SOU should complete the form at (https://form.jotform.com/200288565040148) by Friday, May 15.

Story by Blair Selph, SOU Marketing and Communications student writer

Restoration work at The Farm will happen Friday

Habitat restoration at The Farm at SOU to be completed – at safe distances

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University students and staff will make use of a charitable donation at one of the best places on campus for social distancing when they complete the restoration of a “wet meadow” area on Friday at The Farm at SOU.

The wetland was previously overgrown with blackberries and other invasive species, but has recently been cleared and a new boardwalk that originates at the Thalden Pavilion has been built into the area. About five student employees and interns will work with associate professor Vincent Smith, director of The Farm, to plant a variety of native plants beginning at about 3 p.m. on Friday.

“The plants are all native wetland plants and will be used exclusively to create habitat and as a tool for teaching about the value of wet meadows,” Smith said.

Funding for the restoration project was provided by local philanthropists Barry and Kathryn Thalden of Ashland. An earlier donation from the Thaldens paid for construction in 2018 of the adjacent pavilion that bears their name.

SOU is offering 98 percent of the courses that were originally scheduled for spring term – all by remote instruction or online platforms in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All campus buildings are closed to the public, and students and employees have been urged to wear face masks and strictly observe safe social distancing.

But the 5 ½-acre property at The Farm offers a unique opportunity to get at least a handful of students outside and working on a project that supports the university’s commitment to sustainability. The Farm could have been shut down while the university is in remote operation, but doing so would have cost eight students the jobs they rely upon to help pay for school.

“The reason The Farm at SOU is still operating is because we can guarantee outdoor distanced work,” said Smith, chair of the university’s Environmental Science and Policy program. “The students have all received distancing training.”

The Farm, on Walker Street in Ashland, serves as a venue for organic agriculture and a source of healthy, sustainable food for the SOU community. It is also a center for sustainability and a hub for education, student and faculty research, and community outreach to the Rogue Valley.

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Retired SOU registrar Mike Corcoran

Retired SOU registrar Mike Corcoran passes away

Retired Southern Oregon University registrar Michael Corcoran passed away in the early morning hours of Sunday, March 29, after a hard fought battle with cancer.

Mike was born in Florida on Sept. 19, 1944, but grew up in southern Massachusetts. He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War as a “Ditty Bopper,” intercepting enemy code.

He was especially proud of his time at SOU, where he was hired in 1997 as associate director of information technology. He became registrar in 1999 and served in that position until his retirement in June 2007. Mike often talked about how he loved being registrar because it allowed him to work with and help students one-on-one.

Mike’s birthday was on the little-known holiday “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” and it was not uncommon for him to come to work dressed as a pirate on that day. He leaves behind a legacy of intellect and humor.

Mike is survived by his wife, Cindy Corcoran; children Ryan (Amber) Corcoran, Kelly Porter, Chris (Jennifer) Corcoran and Bobby Corcoran; and six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Mike donated annually to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and contributions in his honor would be welcomed. He will be buried in the National Veterans Cemetery in Phoenix, Arizona, once the world is no longer in quarantine. He earned that privilege and will receive full military honors.